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Archive for the ‘marriage’ Category

I’ve come across so many articles lately about “How to Live on 1 Income!” or even “Why doesn’t America have mandatory maternity leave like other countries do?”.  I get it — it’s even something that I blogged about before — years ago.  But since then, I’ve kind of realized some things.  Such that now whenever I hear the question “How Can We Live On One Income?”, I mentally reply “As long as your income is Bill Gates’, then you’re fine.”  For a while, I thought of it as an income problem.  Or I mentally think “Just have the expenses of Mother Teresa, then you’re fine.”  I would think of it as an expense problem.

Okay, not really.  It doesn’t take Bill Gates income to support a family.  And you don’t have to have expenses of a single nun.  And while, at the end of the day, it does come down to expenses and income, I’m guessing (just guessing) that in my circle of friends, there are 1-income homes making $40K/year and they make it work. And there are probably also couples making $150K/year who struggle to pay all their bills.  So, it isn’t the amount that’s critical – it’s the decisions made that make all the difference.

But even that statement is kind of misleading.  Because, I’ve realized that:

  • It’s the decisions your parents made when you were growing up that affect you today.
  • It’s the decisions your spouse’s parents made when you were growing up that affect you today.
  • It’s the decisions that you made after high school that affect you today. (Student loans, rents, mortgages, car loans, etc)
  • It’s the decisions that your spouse made after high school that affect you today.
  • It’s the professions that you’re in that affect you today. (Income potential as well as other expectations like dress code, cars, houses)
  • It’s the professions that your spouse is in that affect you today.
  • It’s the part of the country that you live in that affect you today. (Particularly housing has a huge effect on cost of living)

It’s all kinds of things.  I’ve just come to realize that being/having a stay-at-home spouse is a complex issue.  It’s not SOLELY a function of the decisions that you make today, but it’s influenced by decisions made for the last couple of decades and decisions not even made by you.

Over the years, my mind has gone from “You just have to make a budget that only spends what you make.” to “You just have to have 1 income that makes enough money to support your needs.” to “I think people need to really be wise about their decisions and the decisions that they lead their children too because financial decisions can have a really long-term effect.”  Aka: It’s complicated. 

 

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Last thoughts on marriage from someone who has been married for a whopping 4 years…

Thought #7: People should glorify God

In summary:

You can read a list like this and think “No way!  No way do I want to be married if it’s going to be like that.”  To that I say: if you can stay single and honor God, go for it!  If staying single makes you content and you don’t really long for a life-long partner or children, then awesome for you!

To the rest of you (us), just know that this isn’t the majority of marriage.  At least not for us.  We aren’t always selfish, have different value, make bad assumptions or are radically different from when we got married. It just happens some times.  Occasionally.  Same as with any other relationship — it’s just that the stakes are higher because we’re married.

There isn’t a “Get out of jail free” card to be played.  And that’s awesome!  That’s one of the things – maybe the greatest thing – about marriage that I like.  It’s until ‘death do us part’.  On Earth, it’s the closest thing we can get to a forever relationship with another mortal.

And it’s even good that it has conflict at times.  Iron sharpens iron, you know.  God knew that there would be conflict in any human relationship – amplified even more so in marriage.  And yet, our marriages should honor God.  Glorify Him.

People should be able to look at a typical day in a Christian household and think: “Wow, they really love each other.  What helps them to do that?”  Not that we love each other in a hokey way or superficially.  But that we really love one another.  Just like God loves us.

That we really are dedicated to each other.  Just like God is dedicated to us.

Marriage should glorify God because the people in the marriage should glorify God.

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More thoughts on marriage from someone who has been married for a whopping 4 years…

Thought #6: People can be selfish

If I’m frustrated with Jeff, it’s most likely because I feel that he’s being selfish. But really, it isn’t that his selfishness that bothers me.  I can handle that.  What really bothers me is when his selfishness sometimes prevents me from being able to be selfish. (Note that he might not really be selfish, but in my mind, I assume that he is.)

An example: Our kids are early risers. Apparently, we subscribe to the “Early to Bed, Early to Rise” mentally around these parts. This serves us very well during the week and on Sundays, but they haven’t exactly recognized the concept of sleeping in on Saturdays. (I know, I know, wait til they’re teenagers…) And up until a couple of years ago, Jeff & I both got to sleep late(r) on Saturdays.

We try to let one of us sleep in and the other gets up with whomever wakes up first (usually Finn). We don’t usually decide who will get up on a Friday night; it’s usually a spur-of-the-moment decision on Saturday morning.  A few factors go into deciding who gets up.  Does one of us wake up and doesn’t feel tired?  Has one of us had a particularly rough week, sleep wise and could really use the extra hour or so?  But sometimes, we’re both really tired. And both really want to sleep in. But one of us has to get up.  Sometimes I get frustrated with him if he wants to sleep in.  But only because it means that I can’t.

Other times, it appears in our finances. He wants to put more money in a Roth IRA and I want to spend more money on updating the house.  I (wrongly) interpret his desire as selfish because it’s what he wants and not what I wants. He’s making a smart decision, one that’s wise and certainly not selfish. But his desire is at odds with mine.  So I label it as selfish.

Summary:

  • People can be selfish.
  • Even when people aren’t being selfish, sometimes we think they are.

I try to remember that Jeff might not be selfish and to remember that marriage isn’t 50/50. And that I rarely regret being generous (with time or money)!

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More thoughts on marriage from someone who has been married for a whopping 4 years

Thought #5: People make assumptions

I make assumptions all the time.  You do too.  I assume that my car will start in the morning. I assume that when I set the alarm, it will go off.  I assume that restaurants serve properly cooked food that won’t make me sick.  Most of the time, these assumptions serve me well and aren’t any big deal.

But sometimes, I make bad assumptions.  Sometimes, I assume that when Jeff cleans up the toy room, he’s making a silent commentary on my housekeeping skills.  Or that when he doesn’t want to make changes to our life insurance that he doesn’t really care what happens if he were to pass away.  Sometimes, he assumes that when I use sarcasm and say something that hurts his feelings, that I’m intentionally being mean.  (I’m violating the “We only edify” rule!)

In reality, he just wants to help me out.  In reality, he is still thinking about the insurance policy changes.  In reality, I just wasn’t being careful with my words and thought I was being funny.

I try to assume good things.  And to ask questions about what he really meant.

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More thoughts on marriage from someone who has been married for a whopping 4 years

Thought #4: People Have Different Values

People have different values.  I don’t mean “I value honesty”.  I mean “I value having a comfortable home that reflects my style”.   Or “I value taking my kids on road trips”.  What one person values isn’t necessarily important to the other.

The above are good examples.  I value the home that reflects my style (once I figure out what that is!).  Jeff values taking road trips (when the kids are older, of course). The problem is that I’m not so excited about road trips.  Now I can handle road trips as long as he means “drive 3 hours to Kansas City where we’ll spend the long weekend watching baseball games and visiting amusement parks”.  But if it means “drive 24 hours over the course of 2 days visiting different destinations along the way”, then I’m not excited.  At all.

Same goes with Jeff.  He’s okay with remodeling the house as long as it means “we hire other people to do things and we spend a little bit of money.”  But if it means “we do everything ourselves and everything is a mess for a long time and we spend lots of money”, then he’s no longer excited.  At all.

So, we compromise as best we can. I’ll get on board with road trips, little by little because it’s important to him.  He’ll get on board with remodeling if I can put a real plan together, we can pay for it in cash and it doesn’t impact too much of our other financial goals.

But some things don’t have an easy or obvious compromise.  And that makes things tough.  But if you’re in this for the long haul, you keep working on it.  You mess up.  You pick yourself up and you keep at it.

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More thoughts on marriage from someone who has been married for a whopping 4 years

Thought #3: People just don’t know

This is kind of like the previous point where people change over their lives, but this one is more that you just don’t know things when you get marry.  You might think you have an idea of how you want to parent, what kind of house you want to live in, how you want to spend your money, but then these decisions come up and now you realize that it isn’t as simple as you thought. 

Example for us is that before we got married, Jeff had the idea that we’d eventually move to a house and stay there for as long as possible.  That our kids would always have just 1 house that they’d know as ‘home’.  In his mind, we might move when we became empty nesters, but for the most part, we’d stay there.  That seemed great to me.

In reality, that doesn’t seem so good to me anymore.  We moved last fall and although I absolutely adore the location, I’m not sure this is the house for us for the next 20-30 years.  It just doesn’t seem like the place where I’d want to have teenagers.  When we were just engaged, I had no idea what our life would look like and so his plan seemed good to me.

Now that our life together is starting to be more clear, I’m not as certain.  This seems like a good house for having young kids, but I can easily see us moving in 10 years to a bigger house – or at least a house with a different floor plan.  We’ll just have see what life brings, but my point is that what you think you want before you’re married isn’t always what you’ll really want when you get there.

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More thoughts on marriage from someone who has been married for a whopping 4 years

Thought #2: People can change

People change over their lives.  They have experiences that shape them.  They read books that change their opinions on things.  They talk to people who introduce new ideas to them.  So people change.  Sometimes, for the better.  Sometimes, for the worse.

The complicating factor that impacts marriage is that often one person will move towards a different direction and the other doesn’t.  It might be a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be a major thing to create conflict.  He starts veering right and she wants to stay on the left and there’s a struggle there.

In our marriage, this is mostly my doing.  I read something and start changing my mind on different things and Jeff doesn’t necessarily agree.  With the rate at which I read, there’s no way he can keep up with me and still keep his sanity.  So, the struggle in our marriage can be on my shoulders to be slow to change my mind, communicate with him well and give him space and time to think about the things that I’m now thinking of.

 

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